There is a heated debate underway to establish how Operation Peace Spring altered the balance of power in Syria. Even the Western media agrees that Turkey and Russia are the winners. In addition to complaining about Europe’s lack of influence over the Syrian theater, others are mourning for the PKK terrorist organization and its Syrian offshoot, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – the biggest losers.
Some German and French politicians have been busy blaming the West for “selling out the Kurds” whom they ordered to fight against Daesh, in a desperate attempt to conceal their helplessness. They urge their governments to sanction and mount pressure on Turkey within the NATO framework.
It is too late for this now. What’s done is done.
Turkey carried out a surgical strike to address a problem caused by its late arrival in the Syrian theater. It stopped the PKK/YPG terrorists from creating a statelet across the Turkey-Syria border. Going forward, it will be crucial to monitor the implementation of Turkey’s agreements with the United States and Russia to facilitate the YPG’s withdrawal from the 30-kilometer safe zone.
Turkey’s accomplishments on the ground are strategically significant. Ankara just eliminated a threat that the great powers have used against Turkish interests for decades.
The United States took steps that weakened state actors in the Middle East at two critical junctions. In the 9/11 terror attack’s wake, Washington invaded Iraq, a regional heavyweight, and turned it into a failed state. The U.S. invasion paved the way to Iranian expansionism, as Iraq, a country that Israel believed to threaten its national security, was irreversibly buried in domestic turmoil.
The second such move came against the backdrop of the Arab revolts, when the world became fully aware of the bankruptcy of the West’s liberal values. Western governments stood idly by as hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in Syria, whose civil war displaced millions more. Countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen swiftly joined the long list of failed states in the world. To add insult to injury, the United States outsourced the fight against Daesh, a by-product of Washington’s failed policy in Iraq, to another terrorist organization – the PKK, which is responsible for thousands of deaths in Turkey, a key NATO ally. In addition to giving the PKK a new name, the Americans delivered 30,000 truckloads of military equipment to the group in an attempt to transform its Syrian offshoot, the YPG, into a political entity.
Thanks to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strong leadership, Turkey nipped that effort in the bud. An emerging entity, which would have hurt Turkish interests, has been wiped off the map. At the same time, Turkey single-handedly corrected the West’s most serious mistake against its ally. Indeed, European leaders, who are talking about Turkey’s removal from NATO, should thank the Turkish government.
The PKK/YPG threat is far from over, but the group’s nationalist project – the so-called cantons – are dead in the water. As the supposed "Rojava revolution" ends, the terrorists cannot avert an existential crisis.
Ignore U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to keep the YPG in Deir el-Zour to watch the oilfields. Ignore attempts to get PKK commander Ferhat Abdi Şahin, whose nom de guerre is Mazlum Kobani, invited to Washington. None of that means anything in the long run. Trump is merely looking to alleviate domestic pressures on his administration, giving Congress and the American public what they want.
The U.S. president just ended Washington’s cooperation with a terrorist organization, which the bureaucracy had described as “tactical” for years. He thus broke the backbone of the YPG presence in Syria. More will follow.
It is no secret that Western governments are not done trying to use the YPG as a proxy. They keep trying to rebrand the YPG’s top commander by saying that PKK’s Syrian component is not the PKK – and therefore legitimate. Obviously, Turkey will keep looking for that murderer of 63 soldiers.
Turkey has no choice but to keep fighting the PKK/YPG. Let the terrorists and their sponsors know, however, that their plan has failed.